Hong Kong darts pair on target for another run at World Cup glory in Frankfurt
Scott Mackenzie and Royden Lam Ting-chi represent the SAR in Frankfurt, Germany where the 2016 World Cup of Darts is being held
It’s not every sportsperson who would suggest a boozer as the ideal place to meet for an interview – but for Scott Mackenzie and Royden Lam Ting-chi, a Wan Chai watering hole can double up as an ideal practice venue.
MacKenzie’s honing his aim at the oche in preparation for another tilt at the World Cup of Darts. He and Lam put Hong Kong on the global map at last year’s competition with a couple of upset wins on their way to the quarter-finals, where the previous year’s champions, Scotland, proved too strong.
Thirty-two two-man teams from around the world will compete in Frankfurt, Germany, from June 2-5, with Hong Kong’s top pair hoping they can go even further than last year if luck and form are with them.
Reigning champions England – with all-time great Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor – and Raymond van Barneveld’s Dutch pair will be heavily favoured, but Lam and Mackenzie are hopeful they can spring another few shocks.
“The World Cup games are quite short so it’s possible if we play well,” says Mackenzie. “Anyone can beat anyone over one leg but over many legs they have the advantage.
“Hopefully, we don’t get England early on. We could be seeded after last year.”
Mackenzie, who has been in Hong Kong since 1996, is taking occasional jobs as a freelance editor, having left his job as an investor relationships manager at a hedge fund, while Lam’s sponsorship deal with DartsLive also allows him plenty of time to practise.
“I’m getting up quite early and practising three to five hours a day,” says MacKenzie. “We’ll meet up regularly to practise together as well.
“I’ve also been hitting the gym and hoping to get really fit,” he adds, a sentence that many of the sport’s greatest players would never dream of uttering.
WATCH: Hong Kong bow out of the World Cup of Darts 2015 at the hands of Scotland at the quarter-final stage
While well-known in Asian darts circles, last year’s World Cup brought the pair some new-found fame abroad and to the wider public in Hong Kong.
Lam, 40, says he can’t be bothered with any of that – “I just want to throw my darts and focus, just show and perform my best,” he says – but Mackenzie admits he “quite likes the attention”.
With 7,000 baying fans at the Frankfurt Eissporthalle and a live TV audience of millions, the pair will be in store for plenty more if they deliver again.
“Everyone wants to win and if we can go further [than last time] it puts Hong Kong on the map, and Asia,” Mackenzie says.
“There’s a lot of good players in Asia and it’s a good chance to get Hong Kong noticed.”
And with £250,000 (HK$2.8 million) in prize money, it’s a potential big earner, too. Mackenzie and Lam’s last tournament saw them in singles action at a ‘soft tip’ (the electronic form of darts familiar to anyone who frequents Hong Kong’s bars) tournament in Las Vegas.
Mackenzie “won about $400 that went straight to the casino”, so a decent pay day is not to be sniffed at.
With the Professional Darts Corporation slow to move out of Europe and into Asia, opportunities at major steel-tip events are few and far between for the pair, though they will be in action at a first PDC event in China later this year, in Shanghai.
“If you keep winning tournaments all the time you can make a living,” says Mackenzie, who describes himself and Lam as semi-pro.
“We’ve got some sponsors but not enough to get rich like Phil Taylor [who reportedly got £3 million in 2014 for transferring from one darts manufacturer to another].”
Mackenzie’s ‘arras’ have davidicke.com on their flights – the website of the former Coventry goalkeeper who is now famous for his belief that shape-shifting lizards rule the planet.
“I love a conspiracy theory,” says Mackenzie. “The Kennedy Assassination, 9/11, Princess Di ... I just contacted him [Icke] and he agreed.”
The World Cup sees teams compete in best-of-three matches: two singles and a deciding doubles if necessary, where each player takes turns to throw their darts. Lam says he “plays slow and patiently”, while Mackenzie finds the waiting around in doubles somewhat frustrating, yet the partnership works. The respect for each other is plain when Hong Kong champion Mackenzie says of his title: “I only won it because he was out of the country at another tournament.”
Lam stands out on the oche with his thick-framed bright white spectacles, and he’s also unusual in the sport in that he never touches alcohol.
Mackenzie stays true to tradition in that regard, though his refuelling schedule is positively paltry compared to the titanic intake of some of the game’s legends.
“I wish I didn’t but I need it to calm my nerves. I’ll only have five or six pints though – any more and it goes over the edge.”